There’s a good single sex and co-ed spread across Bucks private schools. Most prep schools prepare pupils well for both senior private schools and the sought-after grammars, although many go up to 13+.
Private schools near Beaconsfield and Gerrards Cross
Prep schools near Beaconsfield and Gerrards Cross
A firm believer in prep education to 13+ - not always the easiest sell in south Bucks grammar school heartland – Davenies School is a boys’ school based in Beaconsfield that’s quietly moving from cosy local prep to major contender, especially if you want to keep all senior school options open. Solid academics have ‘been taken to a new level’, say parents.
For girls, Beaconsfield has the proudly non-selective High March School. ‘All three of my kids, who are all quite different, have had a really happy time there,’ said a parent. Half head off to local grammars, the rest to independents, notably Pipers Corner and Wycombe Abbey.
Gayhurst School in Gerrards Cross steals the show on the non-selective, co-ed 11+ front. Mainly feeding the local grammars, it is renowned for finding’s children’s strengths and building on them. ‘If like me, you have one who’s academic and one who’s not, they both shine,’ one parent told us.
Gerrards Cross has three preps to write home about: Thorpe House for boys, and both Maltman’s Green and St Mary’s for girls. Thorpe House School is the only boys’ school in Bucks that takes boys from reception to 16+. It’s a very small, friendly and inclusive school. Maltman’s Green (purple felt coats, boaters and curtsies abound – need we say more?) sends about a third of its girls to local grammars, the rest mostly to hard-hitting independents, and is as sporty as it is academic. St Mary’s is a more laid back, but still solid, choice for girls. Best of all – cue local cheers – you get to sidestep the year 6 exam frenzy.
Under five miles away, the traditional Caldicott Preparatory School in Farnham Royal is a traditional boys’ prep for confident all-rounders who love sport and being competitive and, with compulsory boarding in years 7 and 8, focuses exclusively on preparing for boarding schools, especially Harrow, Eton, Wellington and Radley. Not an obvious choice if you have your eye on the Bucks grammars (or any other school with 11+ intake), though. Just round the corner is Dair House, a co-ed 11+ school in picturesque setting with plenty of push balanced with extracurricular.
Secondary schools near Beaconsfield and Gerrards Cross
The grammars have led to a dearth of private secondaries in the area, but St Mary’s in Gerrards Cross remains a favourite for girls who benefit from a more laid-back vibe, while Thorpe House runs to 16 for boys. And there are plenty of other schools they’re bussed off to from here – Berkhamsted School (boys), Berkhamsted School (girls), Shiplake College, Merchant Taylors’ School and Pipers Corner School.
Private schools near Amersham and Chesham
Prep schools near Amersham and Chesham
For boys, The Beacon School on the Amersham/Chesham borders is a super all-round 13+ school, that feeds local grammars right through to top boarding schools. All activities, not just core academic subjects, are valued and properly resourced. Pupils living further afield, eg in Gerrards Cross, can benefit from a shuttle bus to ferry them to and fro.
A satellite girls’ prep for the Berkhamsted group of schools, Heatherton sees off a third of its pupils to the senior school at 11+, another third to grammars and the rest to local independents. Parents value the bigger picture of child development.
For co-ed, Chesham Prep is more grounded and softer around the edges than some local offerings. There’s a family feel, and the access via pretty country roads all adds to the village school feel. ‘Definitely not some big swanky private school,’ said a parent
Just over in Great Missenden there’s the Gateway School, a nurturing feeder for the grammars. Nurture is also the name of the game at the delightful Charlotte House Preparatory School for Girls in Rickmansworth. Just round the corner is the unpressurised Royal Masonic School for Girls Cadogan House, where there’s a school bus and free pass to RMS senior school. And for a solid, traditional option with ever growing academic rigour, there’s Berkhamsted Pre-Prep and Prep, where there’s a senior school too.
Secondary schools near Amersham and Chesham
There are no big private schools in Amersham and Chesham, but the excellent transport links – including hotspots on the Met line – mean families think nothing of sending their offspring further away, including towards London.
For girls, there are several such options. Royal Masonic School for Girls in Rickmansworth is now a serious contender in the competitive local market. Top-notch facilities and tonnes of arts and extracurricular. Slightly further towards London is Northwood College for Girls – another good all-rounder that has historically favoured a more pastoral bent, but again, results aren’t half bad, and there’s a real focus on value-added. Definitely more academic is St Helen’s School, although extracurricular provision is another key reason parents pick it. Every girl we met there belonged to, or had set up, clubs and societies.
Brainbox boys head to Merchant Taylors’ School in Northwood, either by tube or via its fleet of school coaches. Exceeding the grammar schools in pure academic achievement, it also ticks the boxes for class size and pastoral support, as well as offering world class facilities, sports and extracurricular options.
Meanwhile, for a co-ed option – well, sort of – there’s Berkhamsted School (boys) and Berkhamsted School (girls) whose diamond structure means girls and boys are taught separately at senior level until sixth form. Most choose Berko for its broader offering and value added. ‘A very slick operation,’ found our reviewer.
Private schools near Marlow
Prep schools near Marlow
Nearby High Wycombe is home to some of the best and nearest preps. Girls are served particularly well. Godstowe School – the school on which Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers was based and perceived sister school to Caldicott – is a traditional option that’s practically fizzing with energy and creativity. Co-ed to 7 with a range of boarding options, a handful leave for the grammars at 11, the rest head off to a wide range of seniors from Wycombe Abbey or Cheltenham Ladies’ College to Wellington and other co-ed boarding schools.
Meanwhile, for an all-through option, Pipers Corner School is picked largely by parents wanting to escape the pressures of local hothouses. The girls – with automatic entry into seniors – gain skills for life, and parents also value the ‘good rapport’ with teachers.
For co-ed, Crown House School, just outside High Wycombe town centre, is a small feeder for the local grammars. Non-selective but with small classes and a bread-and-butter diet of strong academics, it is particularly popular among medic parents.
Slightly, but not much, further away from Marlow is Henley-on-Thames, home to Rupert House School (11+ small but ambitious, very homely, not flashy). Meanwhile, Herries Prep School, in Cookham Dean, is described by parents as ‘very academically ambitious.’
Secondary schools near Marlow
In the exam results Olympics, girls-only Wycombe Abbey goes for gold. Parents told us about ‘faultless’ teaching, with the overriding aim to deliver a clean sheet of stellar grades at GCSE and A level. But bear in mind this is predominantly a boarding school. Pipers Corner is at the other end of the pressure scale – while some do achieve a fistful of top exam grades, the real reason girls come here is to lap up the wider learning journey.
Claires Court School (not actually Bucks, but in Maidenhead, Berkshire) is about 15 minutes away, co-ed but with a diamond structure (boys and girls taught separately up to GCSE) is a draw for parents. Slightly further still is Shiplake College, Henley. Again, not Bucks – but in luxurious Oxfordshire countryside – it’s about half-an-hour in the car (on a good day) and there’s always flexi boarding. Traditionally not considered an obvious option for the brainy, but we found pupils of all academic abilities can make their mark at this inclusive school, and it’s big on pastoral care too. If you’re prepared to push the drive to over half-an-hour (but again, there are buses and flexible boarding options), there’s Queen Anne’s School in Caversham, Berkshire. This arty, sporty, gently academic school is a true all-rounder, with particularly outstanding music. ‘If anything, there’s almost too much going on!’ the head told our reviewer.
Private schools in North Buckinghamshire
Prep schools in North Buckinghamshire
North Bucks has fewer preps than the more affluent towns and villages in the south. Our vote goes to three of them. Ashfold School, 20-ish minutes west of Aylesbury, is an unpretentious outdoorsy school that’s particularly good for giving children who are middle-of-the-road academically the discreet boost they need. Caring too - ‘Like one, big warm hug,’ a parent told our reviewer. There’s boarding (part-time, not flexi).
Ignore anyone who tells you that Beachborough School – on the Northamptonshire border – best serves the less naturally academic. Leavers head off to an impressive list of destinations. The key, in this very rural, outdoorsy school, lies in helping children fulfil their potential in a less pressurised way – they learn without even realising.
As for Akeley Wood Junior School, the only criticisms we could find was the odd grumble about school dinners. But pushy parents, step aside.
Also worth considering is the outdoorsy Swanbourne House School, on the Bucks/Beds border, north of Aylesbury. Now part of The Stowe Group, it isn’t hyper-academic, but offers strong support in the classroom, and you can board (including full), although most are day pupils. Nearer Aylesbury, and also non-selective and co-ed (but more of an 11+ feeder for the grammars), is Griffin House School. For an all-through girls’ option, there’s Thornton College in Milton Keynes, a non-selective day and boarding (mostly weekly) all-through school, set in 25 acres.
Secondary schools in North Buckinghamshire
Stowe School is the biggie. Our reviewer found that while there is still space for the unconventional and eccentric, this boarding school – set in an 18th century palatial pad - has left its reputation for sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll behind, while maintaining its sense of fun and developing a thoroughly modern approach to learning and pastoral care. Innovative in teaching, it also excels in the arts.
A less flashy option is Akeley Wood Senior School, close to Milton Keynes - a small, unpretentious, school in a rural setting.
Private schools for children with special educational needs in Buckinghamshire
Although not in Bucks, Egerton-Rothesay School in Berkhamsted runs a mini-bus from local areas including Gerrards Cross. It is an aspirational, intimate school for 5-19 year-olds with dyslexia, dyspraxia, speech and language difficulties and autism spectrum disorders. Eighty per cent of students are funded by their LA via EHCPs – the school currently works with 17 LAs.
Of the mainstream independent schools with standout learning support, we rate Heatherton (‘They spotted our daughter’s issue as early as year 1 which was really impressive, and they’ve been fantastic in supporting her,’ lauded one parent) and Gayhurst where there are plenty of early assessments and intervention. At senior level, Pipers Corner is the star of the show. ‘If only all learning support departments were this good,’ says our reviewer of this CReSTeD registered school. ‘She needed help, and she was given it. In the end, her grades were off the scale from what we expected,’ said a parent. St Mary’s and Royal Masonic School are also worth considering for mild SEN.